Shaina West is a real life superhero, with a backstory to rival an Avenger and an alter ego fighting to change the stigma around Black women on screen. In this guest blog, Shaina explains how she overcame the adversity of a road accident to reinvent herself as a pioneering stunt actor and the anime-inspired Instagram star: The Samurider:
“The choice to become a stunt actor was not a particularly hard one, I feel like through minimal shaping of my own, my life led me towards it – it’s been an incredible ride! It all started when I was 20 and the unthinkable happened. I was in a terrible motorbike accident. It left me stranded in hospital for weeks with a fractured neck and broken thumb. My boyfriend of the time broke up with me and I lost my job. A series of unfortunate events indeed!
“All that I was left with was a passion for Japanese culture including anime. I spent all of my time with these strong characters who could perform amazing feats and solve their problems through the physical actions of their bodies, I was inspired. I got out of my casts and back into the gym, and on my 21st birthday I got a tattoo which would remind me to be strong, do what I love and fight for what I believe in. It was from that day that I decided to teach myself martial arts and, in spirit, be like the anime characters that made me want to feel… heroic. And thus, ‘The Samurider’ was born.
“Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of hard work; I didn’t learn any of the complex and physically demanding moves overnight. Weapon usage, again took immense research and practice just to work out which was the pointy end and which the handle! But hard work and dedication are not just words people throw out to make you feel bad. I had to train, research, train some more, practice, train again. Hard work and perseverance are essential to achieving anything. And it’s totally worth it! There is nothing like the feeling of finally mastering a flip with a sword or staff!
“For me, this is just the beginning for becoming a stunt actor and stunt choreographer. I want to be the TV role-model for the new generations that I never had as a child; a strong, fierce, relentless, extraordinary, untypical black woman who can do whatever she wants and needs. This is why I feel so strongly about wearing my hair in an afro when I perform. For so long black women have been taught to be ashamed of their natural hair texture; I’m fighting to change the stigma around black women. We do not need to conform to Eurocentric standards of beauty. We need to accept that everyone is beautiful, all women are goddesses.
“I have since worked with Disney, been involved with Star Wars, given performances and demonstrations at ACCESS ACTION: STUNTS, the first ever BAME stunt workshop and much more! Being a black stunt actor in a heavily euro-centric industry has been an eye opening experience and one day I hope to have my own TV show so that I can help get more BAME stunt actors the exposure they deserve, especially in this industry – where black actors (usually the sidekicks or villainous characters) are being represented by white stunt actors! Watch this space!”
Contact details: @TheSamurider. For more information, images or interviews, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those interested in learning more about creative people of colour in digital arts, don’t miss Root-ed Zine’s inspiring workshop at the International Slavery Museum this weekend exploring moving image, photography and animation, and much more. Root-ed Zine Art Group Crit takes place 1-3pm on Saturday, 15 December. Book your free place on Eventbrite.
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